RIO Olympian Mary Joy Tabal's golden finish in women's marathon yesterday in the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia is hoped to usher in more gold medals for the Philippines' delegation seeing action in the biennial meet.
The 28-year-old Tabal of Barangay Guba, Cebu City said, "Hopefully sunod-sunod na po (ang panalo ng Pinoy)."
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, at the sidelines of the inter-faith Sports for Peace Children's Games at Mergrande Ocean Resort in Toril, Davao City on Saturday, said he was elated by the news that Tabal won the country's first gold.
"I am very happy despite the no clear embrace of Tabal by the NSA, the PSC has become a refuge of athletes. I hope her win will break the ice of the Philippine team's campaign in the SEA Games," Ramirez said as he also hoped that her victory will signal national sports association's appreciation of talents from the provinces.
Tabal's relationship with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) has been a rocky one from the very start and she almost didn't get a slot to the KL Games. Her golden feat, thus, vindicated her as well from her critics, particularly those in Patafa who earlier rejected her entry into the national team.
Tabal clocked a total of two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds, racing past Vietnam’s Hoang Thi Thanh (2:45.09) and Thailand’s T. Natthaya (2:44.45) who clinched the silver and bronze, respectively.
"Medyo kinakabahan po ako. Sa isip ko mas mahirap ang training ko. Lahat ng paghihirap napagdadaanan ko na -- mag-cramps, mawalan ng hininga, upset stomach. I'm very lucky condition ang katawan ko. I was praying all the while, 'Lord, sana I'm doing the right pace' kasi I'm leading from the start. Sabi ko 'I-guide nyo lang po ako Lord'," Tabal recalled in an interview posted on the PSC Facebook page.
Ramirez, meanwhile, said he informed President Rodrigo R. Duterte through Presidential Assistant Christopher "Bong" Go about Tabal winning the first gold for the country.
"Whatever our medal standing there, well it matters, but what should inspire our athletes is just to give their best for the country. (Whether we win) 50 golds, 100 or 25, the NSAs (POC) will worry about that. Sila nagsabi nyan (medal target), that's their job. This is good for the country, hoping that we can continue to win more medals and I think the 2019 hosting will inspire them," the PSC chief added.
PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, who had been fighting for Tabal's rights and welfare as an athlete, congratulated her and her coach John Philip Dueñas and Jonel Borromeo of Motor Ace. "Jonel has been supporting Joy all these years. He deserves to be congratulated," Fernandez said in an interview via Facebook.
He also urged Patafa to "review their program".
In men's marathon, Guillame Soh Rui Yong of Singapore defended her gold with a time of 2:24.25. He outran Indonesia’s Agus Prayogo (2:27.16) and Malaysia's Muhaizar Muhammad (2:35.05).
Athletics action will resume on Tuesday.